Have you ever stretched your limits to see the place of your dreams? I did a few months back when I trekked for five days to reach Spiti Valley from Manali. In these five days, I crossed the Hampta pass with GIO Adventures, camped at a new spot every night and eventually got to see one of the bluest lakes that I have ever seen. This lake is called Chandra Taal and it is in the middle of Spiti’s wilderness.
Chandra Taal in Hindi directly translates into “the moon lake” or “the lake of the moon”, because of its crescent shape. Some locals in Spiti Valley believe that fairies frequently visit this lake at night. I felt a need to visit this lake because I had a dream that I was flying over it. (Maybe I am a fairy and I don’t know it? Hehe)
Chandra Taal Lake – Legends and Fables
There are many legends that are associated with Chandra Taal but I will only tell you about two. The first is from Mahabharata, the Sanskrit epic of ancient India. It is believed that this lake is the location where the rain God Indra’s chariot took the eldest Pandava, Yudhishthira to heaven.
The second legend associated with this Chandra Taal is something that locals believe. As per this fable, once upon a time, a shepherd often visited this lake with sheep. On one of his visits, he met a beautiful fairy that emerged out of the lake. He fell in love with that fairy and often spent time with her and away from his wife. The fairy made him promise not to tell anyone about her; else she would leave him forever. Years went by peacefully but he eventually broke his promise to her in a fit of rage. He went back to the lake but obviously, she had disappeared. He cried in front of the lake, pleading the fairy to return. The locals believe that the decedents of the shepherd still visit the lake in a hope to meet the fairy.
Where is Chandra Taal Lake?
Chandra Taal is located in Spiti side of Lahul and Spiti valleys in Himachal Pradesh. These two valleys are a part of tribal Himalayas and are remote. These valleys are arid and that’s why this area is called “cold desert”. While most parts of Himachal Pradesh are green, the barren beauty of Spiti valley is something that I had never seen before. Most parts if these valleys are inaccessible from the months of October to May.
Perhaps it is the air of mystery.. or the magic of fables but as per me, this part of the Himachal is insanely beautiful. The strange beauty of Spiti is something that I will remember for life.
How to reach Chandra Taal?
If you remember I mentioned that I trekked for 5 days to reach Chandra Taal. My last camping location before visiting this lake was Chatru, which is in Lahaul valley. Fatigue won over adventure on the last day and we decided to take a taxi from Chatru to Chandra Taal. If you’re visiting from Manali, you can hire a car from there to reach this lake. Please don’t drive here yourself because the condition of the road is treacherous after Batal. Alternatively, you can trek to Chandra Taal from Manali or Batal.
From Chatru to Chandra Taal
The roads in Spiti Valley are definitely some of the worst ones that I have ever seen in the world. They call them treacherous for a reason. The drive from Chatru to Chandra Taal was bumpy and torturous. The fact that I got the most uncomfortable seat in the car did not help because I had very little space in the back of my car to move. I ended up hurting myself every time there was a bump on the road, which was often. I got this seat because everyone in our group was sick except me. The next day, I had massive blue marks on my thighs because of repeated bumps.
On our drive from Chatru to Chandra Taal, I often saw boulders on the road and at times even streams that had overflown on the road. One of these streams is named “pagal nala”, which means “insane stream” and true to its name, it had flooded the entire road and had caused a massive traffic jam. It took a little more than an hour for the traffic to move. It was pretty impressive how the local drivers encouraged and help each other to get out of the mess.
There was no cellphone connectivity here but on our way to Chandra Taal, I saw a sign that said “PCO”. Having not spoken to my family since the last few days because of no phone coverage, I was very happy to see this phone booth that was operated by the Indian Army using satellite phones. A little phone call to my family made me forget the torture of the car journey.
Anyway, the drive from Chatru to Chandra Taal parking lot took around a little more than two hours including the one-hour traffic jam. There were just around 3 cars parked and from here we had to walk for a kilometer to reach the lake.
Chandra Taal – so much blue
At the parking lot outside Chandra Taal, I couldn’t believe we were near the lake because everything around me was barren. How in the world can a water body really exist in this arid landscape?
As compared to our last 5 days of trekking, the walk to the lake was very easy. However, it was the high altitude and thin oxygen that gave some of us headaches. After all, it’s 4300 meters above the sea level, literally half the height of Mount Everest.
My headache was soon forgotten because in the middle of all the dull colored landscape; I finally saw a splash of blue. The sight of this blue dot was like a sip of coffee on a lazy morning because I felt suddenly energetic. This shiny turquoise pendant on Spiti’s barren collarbone grew bigger and bluer as I got closer. Finally, I was at the edge of this lake.
At this moment, I felt I was a part of my computer’s wallpaper that I had stared at for a long time, except it was way more beautiful in reality. Maybe it was in the air or the Buddhist prayer flags but I felt a magical energy that the lake was radiating. I felt a need to stay quiet as I stood next to it. It was time to enjoy the beauty of my surroundings and be thankful for life and Mother Nature for her wonders.
Maybe it’s a good thing that Chandra Taal is a little hard to reach.. or Amir Khan chose Pangong Lake instead of this lake for his movie Three Idiots, else the area around this lake would not have been as tranquil as this. A few years back, it was possible for people to camp right next to the lake but I’m glad it’s not allowed anymore. As of now, the nearest campground is a little more than 3 KMs away from Chandra Taal.
Have you ever worked very hard to see the place of your dreams? Let me know in the comments.
Disclaimer: I was invited by GIO Adventures for a trekking trip where I crossed the Hampta Pass and visited Chandra Taal. The trip was complimentary but the opinions expressed in this article are mine. If you’re planning a trek or any other adventure in the Himalayas, then do get in touch with them – they’re AWESOME.
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A hippie travel writer with flowers in her hair, Sonal should have been born in the 1960s! Bitten by the infamous travel bug, she has an itch to explore resort-free destinations, offbeat islands and small villages. Join her and her partner in crime (Sandro) on their journey as they hop from one music festival to another and explore the beautiful world that they are in love with! Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.Sonal Kwatra Paladini